The good news: Even if you can't afford to upgrade now, many physicians will be satisfied to hear that you are planning to do so—especially if specialists can help select new equipment, McCarthy says. Imaging—and resources to support it—are also important to referring physicians, of course. At Chester County Hospital, Leyden says, in-the-field physician liaisons talk to docs about better access and faster turnaround time for tests and immediately address any questions or problems.
Chester County Hospital also markets its imaging services directly to consumers. Direct mail and print campaigns that either cross-sold or focused on radiology and other diagnostic capabilities created a spike in volume, Leyden says. "It did inspire a lot of women to pick up the phone and ask for information about scheduling their mammography."
Surprised? Leyden wasn't. She and her team conducted a focus group of women and found that they were well aware of which hospitals offer digital mammography—and which ones don't. "Women shop technology. They're savvy shoppers," she says. "And they do select their provider based on that."
Some say hospitals are going overboard with imaging—ordering tests that patients don't need and running up costs for the hospital and the patient. And with shrinking budgets, investments in new technology will certainly face greater scrutiny.
Advanced imaging equipment is a "must-have" to attract specialists in fields such as neurology and orthopedic surgery and is especially important for academic medical centers and regional medical centers, says Lorna Young, senior director, market research at IMV Medical Information Division, a medical imaging market research firm in Des Plaines, IL. Even community and rural hospitals need advanced equipment, she says, because they are so often the first point of care for the community.
But, she adds, that doesn't mean that every hospital has to have the absolute latest model. The 16-slice CT is still appropriate for some levels of care, she says. "They're still very, very good machines. They're not going away." Facilities with multiple points of care don't need to have the most advanced equipment under every roof, she adds. For primary and tertiary sites a hospital might need the most advanced equipment, but for an outpatient center or clinic they can still use those "good, reliable workhorses."